Illuminating the future: office lighting design trends

David J. Alexander
people talking in the office

The forces behind lighting design trends

What's generating the new directions in office lighting design? Like many evolutions, this one is being driven by changes in process, culture and technology.

Today's workforce is flexible, mobile and highly aware of their environmental impact. They expect to work throughout the office, stay connected to their peers and the world, and have an environment that adapts right along with the daily workflow.

It's important for management to recognize these needs and create a workplace where employees can be as effective as possible. As a result, the impetus in office design is on employee comfort, enhanced productivity and energy efficiency. With these objectives in mind, business owners are seeking trade professionals who can serve up strategic, flexible lighting design options that will meet their needs now and in the future.

To bring the new workplace into sharper focus, let's examine some of the key trends in office design and lighting solutions that are optimal for these progressive environments.

Design for open workplaces

Not long ago, the "open workplace" was an anomaly. Companies that embraced this idea did so because it fit their culture. For example, small design firms or tech startups simply functioned more effectively with a lack of boundaries and more collaboration.

Today, the open workplace has been adapted by industries ranging from financial services and health care, to legal, governmental and consulting businesses. In other words, the anomaly has become a common trend. These open offices generally have more employees in smaller spaces. Their layouts tend to feature many shared areas to accommodate overlapping functions.

For lighting professionals, illuminating open spaces demands a new way of thinking.

The concept that "less can be more" comes into practice here. For example, shared spaces such as lounges or meeting spaces are optimal for lighting controls. They provide the ability to illuminate the space only when it is in use, which is practical, adaptable and increases the company's energy efficiency.

In addition, task lighting, such as lamps, allows employees to use lighting "on demand" in shared areas. Troffers are also a wise choice because they add high-quality illumination levels in high-demand traffic and work areas.

Design for productivity and workflow

There was a time when many office spaces in the same industry seemed interchangeable. That's not the case anymore.

Today's evolving office is frequently designed specifically for the individual company and the way work actually flows. That's smart business because it puts a premium on productivity. It also requires lighting professionals to be highly adaptable.

When designing lighting solutions for these unique office spaces, it's important to understand the operations of the company. By defining the individual workflow with a client in the planning stage, lighting can be adapted accordingly. This requires a little more discussion upfront, but it can pay a world of dividends with the finished project.

Design for employee comfort

Not only has office design changed, many firms' attitude toward lighting is also decidedly different than it was a decade ago.

One approach that epitomizes this new thinking is daylight harvesting. This approach combines natural illumination with LED lighting. The overall effect creates a more inviting environment. For this reason, daylight harvesting is a technique that is frequently used in today's lighting design. Daylight harvesting allows a building owner to take advantage of natural ambient lighting in a space by dimming artificial light sources when the sun is at its brightest.

Heat and glare can be a concern with natural light.However, shades and window films can be used to mitigate these issues and help the company lower their overall energy expenses.

Network lighting controls are another solution that can enhance employee comfort. But they also give individuals a say in their workspace. By allowing employees to provide feedback on lighting levels, the controls can be set according to their needs. This flexibility can lead to a better work experience for everyone.

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